Cold chain logistics is the larger system and equipment used to safely transport goods that are temperature sensitive. Think of the cold supply chain as consistent and uninterrupted temperature control throughout the entire supply chain network.
These temperature-sensitive products can be anything from perishable foods (like ice cream) and beverages to medical supplies and even vaccines.
As you can probably imagine, this level of logistics needs to be quite regulated and intentional in order to maintain the quality and safety of the transported goods. Not only does cold chain management involve the correct transportation and storage equipment, but it also includes the trained personnel needed to monitor the goods throughout each part of the supply chain process.
If cold chain management is broken, a whole host of issues can occur:
- Extreme food waste due to spoilage
- Loss of quality, which can make the goods not able to be sold properly or at the correct price point
- Risk of foodborne bacteria
- Important medical supplies or vaccines cannot be used once they arrive, wasting valuable time and resources
- Damage due to melting
Cold chain logistics is a worldwide endeavor across multiple industries, but in the United States alone, it accounted for “248.4 billion U.S. dollars in 2020 and is expected to exceed 410 billion U.S. dollars by 2028.”
As our world becomes more and more connected through consumerism and e-commerce, combined with the huge demand for frozen food, cold chain logistics is only expected to increase. To that end, we’re excited to watch how the four current trends in cold chain logistics grow and continue to adjust in this booming industry.
Cold chain globalization is forcing shipping companies to rethink their piece of the supply chain to ensure quality and temperature control are maintained consistently in transit.
Around the world, food distribution from other regions, countries, and even specialty sources is becoming more and more popular. In places like China, for example, recent increases in the health food movement and the growing middle class have led to a demand for products that did not exist a decade ago. Fresh food, no matter where its origin, is expected to arrive quickly and at the highest quality and freshness, so shipping companies play a critical role in the cold chain process. This is forcing companies to rethink their technology and equipment on board along with the timing and resources needed (both physical labor, but also electricity and capacity).
- Regional Regulation
Each country has its own set of regulations and requirements for things like food and medical supplies, so there is no “one size fits all” approach to cold chain operations.
For a cold chain logistics company to really take hold in this market, knowledge and understanding of country-specific transport rules and regulations of temperature-sensitive goods are essential. Not only does this vary from country to country in terms of government stipulations and quality control, but new guidelines seem to be popping up every year.
Two recent examples in the last ten years forced huge adjustments to be made, and companies in the cold chain industry should expect this to continue:
- “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s prevention-focused Food Safety Modernization Act, passed in 2011, is triggering investment in solutions to document every step in the food supply chain. Products such as produce must be traceable all the way back to the point of origin.”
- “…in November 2013, the European Union (EU) guidelines on Good Distribution Practice for medicinal products for human use went into effect, extending temperature requirements to transportation, and expanding coverage to include over-the-counter drugs.”
- Equipment and Technology
At every step in the cold chain logistics process, cold chain technology should be in place to maintain a wide range of temperature control.
For cold chain logistics companies to be competitive, the more temperature zones and temperature flexibility available the better. For food storage, for example, the accepted refrigerated temperature control is at or just below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius). For frozen items, the accepted temperature range is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius).
When it comes to medical cold chain storage needs, however, the ranges vary greatly. Drug storage, for example, can range from a general guideline of just needing to be below 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius) to a super-specific guideline of staying between 36 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit (2 and 8 degrees Celsius) at all times. The difference between keeping something “just below 77 degrees Fahrenheit” and “must stay between 36 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit at all times” means very different tools, equipment, energy, storage containers, regulation, and monitoring throughout the supply chain process.
- Efficiency and Control
The cold chain industry is putting a different level of expectations on efficiency and control.
To ensure high-quality delivery of goods as quickly as possible (and expected), each piece of the cold supply chain must operate at peak performance. This peak performance is not just about ensuring the top packaging and transportation methods. It’s also about qualified staff and methodical strategies.
As the world is still dealing with the impact and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, driver shortages, for example, are causing a huge bottleneck in this process. One strategy some trucking companies have switched to as a result is the ability to combine frozen and refrigerated goods in one shipment vs. needing a single shipment for frozen and then another shipment for refrigeration.
However, having the ability to combine frozen and refrigerated temperature-sensitive products safely in a single shipment involves a level of adjustment to equipment, capacity, and oversight, so companies like this have a choice to make. This strategy is not just being seen with the trucking component of cold chain logistics, but with air and ocean modes of transportation as well.
How SpotSee Can Help
Our temperature monitoring products offer a wide range of custom solutions for a variety of industries in the cold supply chain. From temperature indicators to recorders, we deliver the best-selling products to our customers. For more information on how to protect temperature-sensitive products, contact our sales team today.